New charter school gets principal’s support, looks for charter families

School district furloughs save $1.1M

A fledgling charter school being launched by Gilroy educators is
looking for community support and will hold its first information
session Thursday.
A fledgling charter school being launched by Gilroy educators is looking for community support and will hold its first information session Thursday.

Pending approval of the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education, Gilroy Prep School is slated to open its doors to about 200 kindergarten through second grade students in August 2011. With the help of Eliot Elementary School Principal James Dent, three teachers are writing the charter this summer and hope to bring it before the board for approval in August.

“I think it’s a great thing for Gilroy,” Dent said. “It give parents more choices. We want to try to create something that’s remarkable.”

Though Dent plans to keep his post as principal of Eliot next school year, he said he’s “definitely intrigued” by the charter school and plans to support the school in some capacity once it opens.

Sharon Waller, a speech therapist at Luigi Aprea Elementary School and one of the charter’s founders, said she was pleased to have Dent’s support.

Waller and her colleagues, Karen Humber and Kristyn Corley, have been meeting with various community members recently to present their vision. They are hoping to recruit community members who can lend a helping hand in the areas of finances and fundraising, facilities, community outreach, website development, program development, and technology.

The charter will set itself apart from other public schools in six major areas, Dent said.

Teachers will be non-unionized and will receive merit pay based on student achievement. Staff would sign a contract under the school’s charter agreeing to the same status as employees in the private sector, Dent explained. If teachers perform well, they’ll be asked back. If not, they’ll be let go. The terms of the contract would allow administrators more flexibility in terms of hiring and firing, Dent said.

“If you’re motivated as a teacher, you pass that motivation onto your kids,” Dent said. “If you’re doing a fantastic job, you need to be compensated accordingly.”

The charter would run two hours longer each school day. The extra time would be used for a variety of different activities, ranging from extra help for low-performing students to enrichment offerings such as music and art classes for students on target.

“Right now we’re just really cramped on time,” Dent said.

The school aims to reduce the number of student referrals to special education by addressing the needs of those student in the regular classroom.

Organizers hope to usher in the school with cutting-edge technology, such as a computer program called Successmaker that has spurred improvements at a number of Gilroy schools.

In addition, there will be a strong focus on the state standards and student engagement, Dent said.

Finally, the organizers of Gilroy Prep School want visitors to walk into their school saying, “Wow, these kids are really well-behaved,” he said. Strong character and exemplary behavior will be one of the pillars of the school, he said.

Though the charter organizers haven’t pinned down a definite location for the school, they are keeping an eye on the school district facility on IOOF Avenue that housed El Portal Leadership Academy – a charter high school that closed last year – and several downtown locations, Waller said.

The organizers will host an informational meeting Thursday evening at Lizarran Tapas, 7400 Monterey St. The no-host dinner will begin at 6 p.m. followed by a presentation at 7 p.m.

Charter school launch

What: Information session and no-host dinner

When: Dinner at 6 p.m. Thursday; Presentation at 7 p.m.

Where: Lizarran Tapas, 7400 Monterey St.

Details: [email protected]

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